'The Women with Silver Wings' Review: Top-Flight History of Female AviatorsHistorians in the News
tags: aviation, womens history, World War 2
Historian Katherine Sharp Landdeck’s highflying debut "The Women With Silver Wings" chronicles a cadre of fearless women whose wartime sacrifices were nearly forgotten.
The origin story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, is lovingly and meticulously wrought by Landdeck who, as a pilot herself, powerfully illustrates the freedom and independence the cockpit gave these women in both the sky and their lives on the ground. Set against the backdrop of World War II and the Golden Age of Aviation, Landdeck traces the innovative beginnings of the WASP through a rich combination of photos, archives, diaries, interviews, newspapers and reportage.
In the wake of Pearl Harbor, hundreds of thousands of new planes required “ferrying,” or flying from the factories to the Army bases where they were needed. Enter the WASP, a coalition of female pilots who “had to meet a higher bar for admission with more experience and education than was asked of men — and initially received lower pay.” Still, the women were thrilled.
Nancy Love and Jackie Cochran were the de facto den mothers of the WASP movement, and the story of their contributions is rivaled only by the competition between them. In the 1930s and '40s, both women were members of the tony Long Island Aviation Country Club in Hicksville, “the epicenter of social activities for a moneyed class who loved to fly.” At the time, the skies were reserved primarily for the country club set, and Love was a society maven. In 1930, at age 16, Love gave a barnstormer $5 for her first flight in a Fleet, an open cockpit two-seater biplane. The “powerful thrill” was enough to hook her and she had her pilot’s license within a year.
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